Letters came and went in different shapes and sizes. The envelopes could hardly contain some of them. I once wrote on a toilet roll and rolled it up again. Tony found a piece of writing paper the size of a newspaper and wrote in tiny writing on both sides. It was interesting trying to read it in the Beetle during my lunch break. I also got HUGE cards which were too big for the mailbox.
We had lots to talk about. We hadn’t talked for more than 20 minutes in total on the ship, so we knew very little about each other. There were lots of questions in every letter. How much sugar do you take in coffee/tea? What size shoe? What is your favourite food, movie, colour, music etc.
I didn’t know how tall he was or how old he was. I even forgot what he looked like. I was relieved when he sent a photo. He was gorgeous.
I had heard Tony’s story, in brief, a couple of times in conferences. It was so different from mine and it came in instalments in the mail.
He was the youngest of three. Jan was the first born and Ben was just 18 months older than Tony. Their dad, Doug, was a successful businessman and an entrepreneur. Betty, their mum had been a legal secretary before having children.
Both Doug and Betty had been raised in the old fashioned way, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Betty, her two sisters and brother were ruled by a religious father who wielded an iron rod. There was no-one to soften the blows and no-one they could go to for a taste of gentleness. Their upbringing had such a negative affect on them that they determined that their children would not get the same treatment.
Doug began drinking as a young man and it got out of control early in their marriage. When the children were in their teens, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and started his battle to “get off the wagon.”
Tony got into all kinds of drugs by the time he was 13. He started to deal drugs at school and trip with some of his teachers. During one wild party at their house, gate crashers broke in, gardens were trampled on and the police were called in. Other parties were held when Doug and Betty were out. The mess was cleaned up before they got home and they had no idea what had gone on.
Doug tried his hardest to be a good dad. He was loving and generous, but just not around. His absence really affected Tony. He was a risk taker, which scared Betty, but he was loved for his spontaneity and edginess. He took some risks which paid off and others that didn’t.
Betty was barely able to cope. She kept the house spick and span and made sure there was healthy food and baked goodies for the kids when they got home from school. She was doing everything she could to hold her family together while everything was falling apart.